Marty St. Louis certainly picked the opportune moment to score his first goal as a Ranger. After going the first 14 games of his Ranger career without a goal, St. Louis scored a third-period shorthanded goal Tuesday night in Vancouver to give New York a huge lift late in their 3-1 victory over the Canucks at Rogers Arena.
"That's as long a drought as I've had in a while, but I tried to stay the course and play the right way, so this feels good, everyone loves to score goals," St. Louis told reporters after the game. "We're obviously trying to kill a penalty, up a goal in the game, third period, so it's a big momentum swing for our team to get a shorthanded one there. We're pleased coming off that penalty up two there."
Down 2-1, Vancouver threatened to pull even when first Carl Hagelin went to the penalty box at 7:04 of the third period, and then Brian Boyle followed exactly two minutes later. However moments after Derek Stepan was stopped on a shorthanded breakaway by Canucks goalie Eddie Lack, St. Louis and Rick Nash took off on a 2-on-1 with St. Louis burying Nash's feed to the slot at the 10:15 mark of the period, effectively crushing the home team's hopes.
"Hopefully that's gonna' kick start something and he ends up going on fire now," Nash said of St. Louis. "That was a nice shot by him. It's a tough adjustment coming to a new team, everyone's talking about it (not scoring), but in here he's been great, and he's a great all-around player. It's nice to see him get that first one."
The goal was St. Louis' 30th of the season, marking the seventh time in his career he has reached that plateau. Of course 29 of those goals came with the Tampa Bay Lightning this season, and the relief and joy etched on his face after scoring could not be hidden.
The Rangers have now scored three shorthanded goals in their last two games, and have ten shorties on the season.
"The way we've been playing the last month or month and a half on the PK we have been very aggressive, guys are going for it when they see the opportunity," said Henrik Lundqvist, who finished with 34 saves Tuesday. "The last couple weeks our penalty kill has scored a lot of big goals for us."
The win was New York's 25th on the road this season, establishing a new franchise record. Three times before the Rangers had won 24 road games, including twice under former head coach John Tortorella, who watched glumly from the Canucks bench as Alain Vigneault enjoyed his return to Vancouver where he had coached the previous seven years.
"There's not a home way to play and road way to play," explained Vigneault, who also downplayed his personal feelings about winning in his return to Vancouver. "There's one way to play and we try and play it the right way all of the time. We come on the road and try and play the same type of game, and it's paid off for us."
Lundqvist put forth a sterling effort between the pipes for the Rangers, who have now won two straight and seven of their last eight. With 90 points on the season, they reside in second place in the Metropolitan Division, three points ahead of the Philadelphia Flyers who picked up one point Tuesday in a shootout loss to the St. Louis Blues.
The Rangers held leads of 2-0 after one and 2-1 after two periods of play, with Lundqvist the best player on the ice--in particular during the second period as Vancouver dictated much of the play as the game progressed. Lundqvist was very active in his crease, challenging shooters, diving to clear pucks out of danger, and was clearly on top of his game right from the first drop of the puck.
If he wasn't already into the game, Lundqvist certainly would have been woken up when Ryan Kesler plowed him over on a scoring chance just four minutes into the contest. Undeterred Lundqvist continued to stand tall, denying former Blueshirt Chris Higgins on a partial breakaway ten minutes into the game, one of 11 saves he made in the opening period. He stopped another ten in the second, including an acrobatic sequence which concluded with him diving outstretched to poke a loose puck into the corner with the Canucks bearing down on his crease.
"I felt like I was in good position most of the time, but there were a couple of times where I just hoped for the best," Lundqvist said when asked about the Canucks crashing his crease all night long. "Pucks just bounced everywhere, and even behind me a couple of times. You just have to stay aggressive, and fight through the traffic."
Despite the fact that Dominic Moore was taken off the Rangers fourth line and bumped up to play with Brad Richards and St. Louis Tuesday night, the fourth line came through with a goal to open the scoring just 4:59 into the first period. Brian Boyle and Derek Dorsett whacked away at a loose puck in the blue paint, with Lack unable to over the disc and get a whistle. The puck eventually squirted to Daniel Carcillo on the left post, and he hammered it into the back of the net for his fourth goal of the season, giving the visitors a 1-0 lead.
Benoit Pouliot scored a power play goal ten minutes later to put the Rangers up 2-0. With Tom Sestito in the box for a tripping penalty, the Rangers won a battle for a loose puck along the left-wing boards, and Derick Brassard made a simply gorgeous feed to Pouliot in the low slot, with Pouliot sweeping the puck quickly past the defenseless Lack. The goal was Pouliot's 13th of the season, and team high-tying seventh on the power play.
Mats Zuccarello earned the secondary assist on Pouliot's goal, and his 54th point of the season established a new record for most points in a season by a Norwegian-born player in the National Hockey League. Espen Knusten of the Columbus Blue Jackets had 53 points during the 2000-01 campaign.
Vancouver scored the only goal of the second period when Kesler got good position on Moore after the Canucks won an offensive zone faceoff, and he one-timed a perfect pass from Daniel Sedin past Lundqvist 6:21 into the middle stanza. Vancouver presed for the equalizer the remainder of the period, but despite their strong forecheck and strong overall play, the Rangers--and Lundqvist--held them at bay.
The closest the Rangers got to regaining a two-goal lead the rest of the second period came with four and a half minutes to play in the period when Brassard redirected a shifty Zuccarello pass just wide of the net, and then Pouliot followed with a pair of dead-on chances which Lack denied.
Despite the feel-good victory Tuesday, the Rangers faced a scary moment with under a minute to play in the game when Ryan McDonagh was left laying on the ice for several minutes after absorbing an elbow from Alex Burrows--who received a major penalty and a game miscounduct for the hit. McDonagh, who eventually left the ice with trainer Jim Ramsay, was grimacing noticably both on the ice and as he skated to the dressing room.
After the game Vigneault did not have an update on McDonagh's condition.
The Rangers will travel to Denver on Wednesday, and will skate against the Colorado Avalanche Thursday night, the conclusion of this four-game road trip.